Tuesday, June 26, 2007

House *works*

We've been very busy here - hence the recent lack of blog posts! But we've been sorting out all our stuff (books, toys, paperwork, art stuff, photos etc.,) into a workable storage system allowing us easy access to everything.

With apologies to readers of my other blog, who have seen some of this already, here's what we did:

The books, jigsaws, games and art/craft stuff were all in the dining room which worked quite well because good use was made of the dining table, but the room was quite crowded and getting around the table at mealtimes could be a bit of a tight squeeze:

And the living room housed a chaotic collection of toys, which was also good in a way, because it seemed to engender the most creative, complex imagination games in Lyddie. But even when tidied into boxes (randomly) it wasn't attractive and the room never felt tidy. I was also concerned that we had too much stuff that wasn't really accessible, and there's no point in having loads of stuff that doesn't get used.

As for paperwork and other stuff, well:

It wasn't pretty. I'd made a start with those boxes you see to the right there, but for weeks I kept thinking "This whole place needs sorting out - properly."

Louise asked me how we knew how many crates we'd need and the answer is: we didn't. Wilkos were selling a range of Crystal perspex crates with lids (standard size: £3) and I looked at the chaos on the living room floor and roughly counted the number of categories I could see: duplo, dolls, teddies, cars, etc. and guessed at the sizes that might be required. We did sums to make sure we had enough spare cash in the overdraft then went off and bought a dozen or so and spread them out on the dining room table. Crates of toy chaos were then brought in one at a time and sorted. When we ran out of boxes, we went back and bought more. I think this happened about five times!

Until the dining room was full and the living room was empty:

Then we painted it:

And went to buy shelves. Ikea's Ivar range is one we've used before, and we've found it's cheap, solid, looks ok and above all is easy to assemble and modify, so we went with that. Lou also asked how we knew the crates would fit on the shelves and - we didn't! Well we knew the regular-sized ones would. The big ones, did I measure them? I might have, but we were working so fast and furiously by then (16 hour days, all last week) that I can't remember. I think we (I - Tom was laughing at me for it, so it can't have been him!) decided just to wing it. All along we were doing sums on the backs of envelopes - we looked like mad maths boffins trying to solve a complex theorem!

We filled loads of shelves with boxes and books, then decided we needed more shelves, so went back again. This job wasn't meticulously pre-planned at all! It was kind of, er, organic in its development. I wish I could blog movie clips of us careering back from Ikea with car full of people and shelving units, then all piling out and starting to build them. Our baby was quite interested in the process anyway, from her sling-side position!

Anyway, here's the end result:

And here are some more detailed pics, on big clickable photos at Lou's request (who is probably at HESFES, - hope the sun shines!) so might not see this until next week anyway.

We made a play corner, with cars (right box) and a road mat. ( - Ikea again! £10.) The box on the left is full of Zara's old Polly Pocket miniature compacts, for which we need to get some replacement dolls.

The bulk of the jigsaws and games are up here:

But we put some in easy reach near the table, especially the stuff Lyddie's been using a lot:

Here are Magnetix, and a box of modelling stuff to the right..

Here's Lego..

All the family photos are in this big box here, for someone to organise if ever they feel like it! We wanted them to be accessible, but toddler proof, which these box lids are.

I hate making things 'age-appropriate', but there are two baskets full of 'young child' books on the 2nd shelf up, so these are about chest-height for Lyddie:

As is the Duplo basket:

We found the cable for the piano - and I've actually been playing it! First time in years. I'm very rusty. Lyddie has played it too. She's been experimenting with the sounds and carefully picks out tuneful sequences.

Also, the globe met the map, and Lyddie got an impromptu geography lesson from Tom when she wanted to know how and why the one became the other. Good question, when you think about it!

Files, old college stuff and diaries went up here. There’s 15 years’ worth of I Ching readings with corresponding notes in that lot! And old training diaries. I might publish it all one of these days.

Here are dressing-up clothes...

And this is kind of what's reachable from the table. Those three smaller boxes to the right contain felt tips, crayons and pencils. In the centre above the lego is a box full of painting gear.

And there's a box of paper at the bottom and a box of comics. This is a crawling/toddling baby angle, one of which we'll have again in a few months. So she can reach things which are safe for her to play with, and not get into things which aren’t.

To the left here is a box of board books, and to the right is a box of musical instruments, and baby dolls in the basket below.

We've amassed three dolls' houses over the years. Nothing special, but they all get played with. I'd love to build a big wooden one. Might get around to that one of these days. [*Edit: ooh I could try to build one into one of these shelves..]

I guess you don't need me to tell you what this is! I bought it 20 years ago for my 3 year-old stepson, and it's survived five children before the current batch of little ones! I also tried to put relevant books next to certain toys. *Sigh* and I said I never did strewing. Oh, the hypocrisy! Ah well. I had to put things somewhere. And strewing is quite fun, I find, when it's done openly. I'd still never be so sneaky as to leave a certain book casually open in the bathroom or something.

Here's a box full of dolls, and doll paraphernalia, of a size that might inhabit the dolls' houses.

Some of my favourite books here. Making berry pie today (thanks Lucy!) reminded me of Peter Rabbit - and I knew exactly where it was! So we read it straight away instead of having to do the usual 10-minute search.

Here's Pooh Bear Corner:

.. and Letterland shelf...

And even the old sideboard got a clean-out. It now houses random toys:

.. and the train set. I really must get some wood glue and fix that bit of track though:

In the corner behind my PC we put the more 'boring' stuff. Those smaller boxes at the top are mostly paperwork. There’s a box for bills, one for banking, one for maps, stationery, etc. And there’s a knitting box up there at the top! And a hallowe’en box. That big box top left is full of Christmas stuff. The 2 below that are videos, which we’re still on because I’ve yet to find a child-proof DVD. The three big boxes in the middle contain sewing & cloth (top), home ed meeting stuff inc parachute (middle) and old files (bottom). Then down the right hand side there’s outdoor sports stuff in the top one, then old home ed stuff below that, from the days when we thought learning had to go in files (!) and some old business stuff below that:

Then we put curtains on that section so that we didn't have to look at it all the time.

Some books, amazingly, didn't make it onto the new shelves due to lack of space! We ran out of walls for shelves. There was also no room for our old bookcase in there, so the cooking/health and herbal books all stayed in the dining room:

Well blimey, it took nearly as long to blog all that as it did to do the job!

In the end the whole project has cost about £350, including paint, shelves and 40-50 plastic boxes. (I still don't know how many we bought!) We were going to spend that money on a new garden room roof, but I'm glad we did this instead because it's improved day-to-day life for us more than the garden room roof would have done, especially given the recent rain we've had! We might manage the roof later in the summer. I hope so, because it will be good to improve the outdoor living space, for when we get some sunshine.

I love the way the new storage system works with natural learning, even in just the first few days. We've got computers in here and TVs, and everything within easy reach. Lyddie's done about 10x more activities every day than before, and the teens keep wandering in to play the piano, find a book, watch a bit of TV or just chat. That says a lot, because they're very self-contained in their rooms and so they don't have to join us in here!

Yes, it was a week of very hard work which was well worthwhile. And we can sit at the dining table now without having to push past bookshelves too:

Phew, I finally blogged it all! Funny how a job doesn't feel finished until it's been blogged.


Blogger xXx ~ Jac ~ xXx said...

Wow! That's a whole lot of work you've done in an amazingly short time. Great blog, BTW. Very thought provoking and smart. Saw you on Green Parent and thought I'd stop by, have a look. Think I'll do so regularly.

Ps: Interested in home education but don't know where to start. Any pointers please?

6:18 pm, June 26, 2007  
Blogger Allie said...

Fabulous. I love the organisation. I think I'm building up to something similar here - but on a smaller scale. I wish we had room for all that shelving.

6:23 pm, June 26, 2007  
Blogger Annkrozeika said...

Wow, that's amazing! I wish I could get my house so organised! Good on you for being motivated enough to get it all done :o)
It looks fantastic.

6:37 pm, June 26, 2007  
Blogger Essitam said...

Came across your blog googling for HESFES, read your mini profile and had to stay and read...

thought I'd say hi, so hi.

9:45 pm, June 26, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Looks like you live by my motto:

"You can never have enough books".


10:09 pm, June 26, 2007  
Blogger Elaine said...

It's exhausted me just looking at the amount of work you have done!!!!
thanks for all the support x

11:17 pm, June 26, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Hi Jac, thanks for your kind compliment!

If you're still making the decision about whether to home educate, I suggest you just read a lot about it. You'll find good book lists on both those sites, as well as useful links to other related sites and correct information about the legal position.

My personal advice to anyone thinking about home education is to think very carefully about your priorities as a family. What's really important to *you*, and what isn't? Because this varies a lot, and working out how it is for you is half the battle. In my case, I don't care whether my children become astronauts, bin men, or anything else as long as they're living the right life for them. Nurturing their individual personalities and allowing them space to just be themselves is my priority. But other home educators have different priorities and some want their children to definitely sit and pass exams etc, so they would probably incorporate a lot more 'school at home', tutoring or even actual school into their plans. But the ones who seem to struggle the most are the people who aren't sure which to do.

But flexibility is good too! ;-)

I'll just shut up now.... ^^

Allie, if you do I definitely recommend that shelving system. The shelves just sit on pegs in holes - that's all there is to it, apart from the cross-braces at the back and they're dead easy. I'm telling everyone this - Ikea should pay me commission!

Ann, thanks :-) But it took a lot of working up to! If I can, anyone can.

Essitam, hi :-) Good to see you here.

J, I never get deliberately get rid of books! I know as soon as I do I'll be thinking: "Hmmm, got a book about that - now where did it go?" LOL

Elaine, yeah but worth it ;-)
As for the support, I just told you the truth. I suspect other people are doing a lot more than that for you! But you know where I am for Eduspeak or whatever if you need any, don't you? Not that I think you will xx

8:20 am, June 27, 2007  
Blogger xXx ~ Jac ~ xXx said...

Hi Gill, thanks for the pointers!

It really is for my little sister (14yrs) moving here from the US. I'm stranded what to do, as I feel she's at a crucial stage and good choices need to be made. Been thinking about home education as then she can learn what she loves and not have a difficult time intergrating in a new country and new schooling system etc and do it in her own time eg in after school clubs where there's not much pressure and she can then make friends with people with whom she has common interests. I've also no idea what schools are best, and fear the good ones won't have a place for her. It's all very short notice as well, and I don't want her missing out whilst we're trying to find her a good school, which may well be private which involves fees etc which we can't really afford now, hence thinking of home education. Phew! Apologies for bubbling on and on!

12:29 pm, June 27, 2007  
Blogger Minnie said...

Well done. I've got something similar in my front room, but I could do with more shelving units! I'm even using my old car as a storage facility for books. Car library lol!!

Great view from the window..made me homesick..again!! x

12:36 pm, June 27, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Jac, yes, it's good to know you don't have to rush to secure a place for her - even if she does end up in a school here eventually - isn't it? You can legally home educate while you're looking around and working out with her what's best to do. No doubt she'll have strong opinions of her own about her education, also?

Minnie, hey maybe you'll start a trend, with your car library. I've got this mental image of a whole street full of them now! ;-)

1:44 pm, June 27, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Enough Already with the plastic box shots!!!!! Death by over-organisation.

10:18 pm, June 27, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Hey! Look at this.


10:26 pm, June 27, 2007  
Blogger shukr said...

just superb!
still can't get over it.
- still wondering how to work the miracle myself!

10:44 am, June 28, 2007  
Blogger Louise said...

Oooh thanks for posting the photos here. I get to click and enlarge :o)
I had the vision of a busy family to and fro-ing with shelves and boxes....thought you did it all in one run! Have no idea where you got the energy though? xxx
ps. not at HESFES this year but I have already started saving up for next year!
pps word verification is : bigbm - is it trying to tell me something....lol

1:43 pm, June 29, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...


Energy came from sheer irritation at previous chaos. (Took quite a while to build up enough of that though - we had to work at it!)

2:07 pm, June 29, 2007  
Blogger HelenHaricot said...

it looks fabulous. maybe when we are irritated enough, we will manage to do something similar!

11:16 am, July 01, 2007  

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